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Selling a House For Sale By Owner (FSBO)

Selling a house can be a lengthy and exhausting process, usually done in conjunction with buying your next home, packing, and moving. Not only this, selling your house can be very expensive! In addition to the home improvements or repairs you may need to do to get your house market read, real estate agent fees can often equal 5% - 6% of your home’s value. While the real estate commission landscape is currently actively shifting, even paying listing fees and commissions solely on the seller’s side can equal 2% - 3% of your home value. This quickly adds up to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, and eats into the equity of your home. As such, many of our DIY inclined physicians ask about the for sale by owner (FSBO) process of selling your home without a Realtor.


Below, we cover what physicians should know and consider when looking at the option of FSBO, including the pros and cons to this approach and tips to guide you through the process successfully


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The step by step process of selling a house by owner (FSBO)


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What does selling a house for sale by owner (FSBO) mean?



FSBO is a well-known shorthand for the method of selling a house without the involvement of a listing agent to represent you. You assume all the responsibilities that a real estate agent or Realtor would normally do to prepare and market a house for sale, arrange and guide showings, complete the negotiations process, and close with the future buyer.


By working without a listing agent, you can save typically around 3% of your sale price in commissions. If you sell to a buyer who also is not represented by a buyer’s Realtor, under the current real estate agent paying structure, you as the seller can save an additional ~3% or whatever arrangement you can come to with the buyer’s agent.


Note: Traditionally, the seller has covered both the seller’s and buyer’s commission fees in a real estate transaction. These rules may be changing with recent legislation. Please ensure you have the most recent information.


When selling a house FSBO, doctors don't have to handle every aspect of the selling process alone. Many physicians who do the for sale by owner process hire a real estate attorney to prepare the purchase agreement and to assist with the closing process. You may want to consider other professionals to help in the marketing process as well.



The process of selling a house for sale by owner



There are a few main steps to selling a home that we will walk you through below:

  • Preparing your home to list on the market

  • Putting together marketing materials for your house

  • Listing and advertising that your house is for sale

  • Fielding and negotiating offers from potential buyers

  • Closing the sale of your home



Prepare your house to list on the market



Before you list your home, it should be in the best possible condition to attract the highest potential offers for purchase.



Audit your home for repairs and maintenance


During the closing process, your buyer will likely hire a home inspector to assess your property. Do your own walkthrough inspection with a critical eye before listing your home. The more you can find and fix, the less the buyer’s home inspector will point out as a reason for the buyer to either back out or to renegotiate before closing. If this isn’t in your skillset, you can hire a home inspector to do an inspection for you - if you do this, be aware that any issues they find you may be required to disclose to the seller. Consider making the inspection and any fixes you made to resolve issues available to the seller. 


Not all cosmetics need to be repaired, such as drawers that slightly stick. Focus on high priority items that could be deal breakers for selling your home:

  • Outdated wiring or plumbing not up to code

  • Roof leaks or other existing damage

  • Improper grading or drainage

  • Dry rot or signs of termite damage



Look for cheap upgrades to add value


While a beautifully redone kitchen can increase your home value, it can also take weeks and tens of thousands of dollars. But painting your cabinets, replacing the hardware, and/or updating fixtures can be cheaper alternatives that can increase the aesthetic appeal–and thus offer price–of your home. A fresh coat of neutral colored paint can often freshen up a home and make it more appealing as well.



Address curb appeal


The first impression a potential buyer will get of your house is the outside. Online listing sites may even require the first photo to be an exterior shot of the front of your house. Spend a little time and money giving your house exterior a makeover.


Key areas to assess and update include:

  • Bushes and trees are trimmed

  • Flowers are blooming

  • Pressure wash your driveway

  • Keep your yard mowed

  • New mailbox with easily identifiable house numbers


If you have a front porch, even a few brightly colored throw pillows or potted plants can draw eyes to your house and make it more inviting.



Declutter, clean, and stage your home


Remove personal photos of you and your family, as well as personal belongings. Your goal when preparing your home is to remove your existence from the property and instead show what the potential buyers’ lives could look like there. You also want to prevent them from knowing too much about you. As a doctor, they could assume you are rich and don’t care about a certain sum of money and use that as a reason to lowball you.


Keep counters and other surfaces as clean as possible. Leave only key, purposeful decor to draw attention to specific areas or features of your home, like a fireplace or mantel, a front porch swing, etc.


Prep for daily decluttering. Invest in a few simple plastic containers or bins you can stow in cabinets or under the bed to store all your daily use items (for your nightstand, bathroom counter, kitchen utensils, etc.) out of sight when staging your home for photographs and showings. Also remove signs of any pets living in the home as much as possible.


Consider a short-term self-storage option. If you have a lot of extra furniture or belongings in your home, investing in a self-storage space during the moving process may be worth the cost. Open, decluttered rooms have higher appeal and show off your home more, or make spaces appear larger, which can increase value. Do a quick search of listings on Zillow and see for yourself the difference between a well staged home that looks ready to sell versus a home that looks lived in.


Clean your home. A deep clean of your house may cost a few hundred dollars, but it will more than ROI when buyers see the online photos and walk through your house. After decluttering, pay a professional cleaner to come in a day or two before you plan to take your listing photographs.



Determine your selling price


Before you can market your home, you have to know what you want to list it at. Sites like Zillow and Redfin can help you see estimates of what they think your home may be worth, but these aren’t concrete numbers. Spend time researching on these sites what other homes in your local area with similar features that could be considered comparables have sold for. Features that can add/remove a lot of value include:

  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms

  • Whether you have a pool

  • Age of roof and major appliances (furnace, HVAC, etc.)

  • Square footage

  • Lot size

  • Garage (attached/detached) and its size (one/two/three car)


You can even interview one or two local real estate agents, who will bring current comps and an idea of what they think your house is worth as a starting point, but make sure you do your own research as well. Obviously, do not sign any agreement with them if you plan to sell by owner.


Check not just what houses are listed for, but what they sell for. See how long, on average, it takes for homes to sell in your local area. This can give you an idea of how hot the housing market is.


You can also get a pre-listing appraisal done to help determine a purchase price if your property is difficult to find comps for. Appraisals typically cost a few hundred dollars. Just note that if the appraiser finds anything during their inspection, you will be required to disclose it to a potential buyer.



Put together marketing materials for your house



Take your listing photos


Professional photography can cost a few hundred dollars, but is another worthy investment that will ROI when selling your home. Some stats say that homes that have been well staged and professionally photographed can sell up to 50% faster and sell for more. So once you’ve cleaned and decluttered, hire a photographer for your listing photos.


If you live on a lot of land or have special features like a lakeside or mountainside property, you may want to invest in a photographer who can do drone photography for aerial shots.


Some photographers may try to sell you on a virtual walkthrough video package, but these aren’t typically necessary as many buyers will still want to view the property themselves. This is beneficial only if you think you’ll have a lot of interest from out-of-town potential buyers.

 


Put together other marketing materials


A one-page brochure you can put with a for sale sign out front can be a great way to attract foot traffic in the neighborhood, especially if you live on a thru-street in your community.


PSG Perk: Moo allows you to make advertising materials. I've personally used them and get asked about these every time I hand them out. They are visually appealing and memorable. Get 25% off your first purchase through our referral link.


If you are social media savvy and have connections in real estate, you may want to also put together an announcement for your Facebook or other social media accounts.



Listing and advertising that your house is for sale



There are a few different key ways to market and advertise your house once you’re ready to sell.



Online listing options for FSBO


Around 50% of buyers find their homes online, so you’ll want to make sure your house is listed for sale on the internet. You can list your FSBO house on popular real estate sites such as:

  • Zillow (consider paying the extra fee for more exposure on searches)

  • Trulia

  • Redfin

  • FSBO


Make sure you read the terms for each site to know what’s included and excluded with your listing.


You also have the option of posting your home to the MLS that real estate agents use. Keep in mind, however, that this may require you to offer a buyer’s agent commission fee. This can average around 2%-3%, which can cut into your overall profit.


Take the time to check that all the listing information is current, especially if you’ve done improvements or renovations since you bought the property. A well crafted property description can draw in potential buyers as well, so go back to the listings for homes that sold close to or over asking from your comp research and see what their listing agents included.



Foot traffic


Along with advertising online, put a For Sale sign out front. Make sure to include your name and cell phone number as the point of contact for interested parties to reach out with questions and to schedule viewings. If you don’t want your information publicly out there, consider getting a Google voice number or similar for the months that you have the house on the market.


If you make a brochure, check that it stays well stocked. If you don’t have a brochure, mention your Zillow or other listing so potential buyers know where they can quickly pull information about your property.


If you aren’t on a heavily trafficked street, consider adding additional signs on the thru streets of your neighborhood alerting neighbors and other locals of your home’s availability.



Word of mouth


As you put your house on the market, don’t forget to tell people! Mention it at work, to your neighbors, at your monthly entrepreneurial club meeting, on your Facebook profile–you never know who might be in the market and looking to move.



Field and negotiate offers from potential buyers



The showing process can be a lot of communication, especially as Realtors find your property and want to offer their services to help you sell it. Always be kind and polite, but don’t be afraid to be firm. Doctors are busy professionals, but being available to field inquiries and schedule showings quickly can make a huge difference in how fast you can sell your home. Remember, buyers are often looking at multiple properties and may make offers on others if they can’t see yours fast enough.



Schedule showings to sell your house


Showings can be a pain, but are crucial to the process. When possible, try to bulk schedule them when you can have your kids and pets out of the house and when you’re available outside of your clinical schedule. Viewings typically take 30-45 minutes. If a potential buyer spends only a few minutes looking around, that’s an indicator they weren’t interested.


Before scheduling a showing, it’s a good idea to ask the potential buyer for a preapproval letter from their lender. Certainly request one before entering into a purchase agreement. If a potential buyer is offering cash, you’ll want proof of funds instead. By requesting this upfront, you can filter out non-serious buyers who will be wasting your time.


It’s also a good idea to have at least one other party with you when doing showings. Typically, a real estate agent will walk a buyer around. If the buyer does not have an agent accompanying them, see if a friend, neighbor, or family member minds coming over.


Feel free to answer the potential buyer’s questions, sharing what makes your home unique and attractive. Just be careful not to overshare information and distract them from their viewing.



Negotiating an offer to purchase your FSBO home


We are huge advocates of doctors knowing their worth and advocating for it in contract negotiations for physician employment agreements. The same is true when selling your home. Once you’ve done the process of comp research when pricing your home, keep your data on hand. Buyers or their agents are going to want the best deal for them, just as you want the best deal for you. In the end, what your home is worth is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it, not what you think it may be worth or what other homes are worth around you. The housing market can be very subjective, so negotiations can be critical in the FSBO house selling process.


Most offers will likely come in under asking. An initial offer is unlikely to be their best offer, so don’t be afraid to go back with a counter offer and negotiate, especially if you have a lot of interest and receive multiple offers. Setting a time limit for a counter offer or response can be a great way to put a little pressure on a potential buyer and make them feel a sense of urgency.


Set a time limit for yourself as well. Selling your house can be an emotional process as well as financial, so sleep on an offer overnight before deciding.


One of the biggest powers you have as a seller is the potential to walk away. Just like with contract negotiations, make sure you know your non-negotiables. For example, have an ideal selling price in mind, an average one, and a lowest selling price you’d consider.


Depending on how hot the market is, you may wish to offer some incentives, such as covering a portion of the buyer’s closing costs. Knowing the days on market average and selling cost versus listing price can help you determine if this might be necessary, as can interviewing a real estate agent during the preparation phase.



Putting together a purchase agreement for your FSBO house


Once you have an offer you want to consider, you will need a formal purchase agreement in place with the potential buyer. A real estate attorney can help you at this stage. Regulations dictate a standard form, which you can also find online. For most physicians, however, using a local real estate attorney to assist will cost only a few hundred to thousand dollars, which is far cheaper than hiring a real estate agent, and probably outweighs the opportunity cost of your time. A real estate attorney can also help you with the closing process.


6 common aspects of a home purchase agreement

Common aspects of a home purchase agreement include:


Purchase price. For and foremost, make sure the agreement includes the final negotiated selling price.


Contingencies. Different buyers may request different contingencies as part of a contract agreement. Some common contingencies include:

  • Ability to sell of their existing home

  • Ability to obtain financing

  • Satisfactory home inspection

  • Home appraisal contingency


Closing cost concessions. The contract will dictate if one party will cover some closing costs typically covered by the other party, such as:

  • Title fees

  • Escrow fees

  • Transfer taxes

  • Title insurance


Closing date. The closing date can vary depending on a buyer’s financial situation. If they need to secure financing, closing can typically take longer. But a for sale by owner contract should include a target closing date with a window to extend under certain conditions, such as working to secure financing and completing inspections.


Good faith or earnest money. When entering into a real estate transaction agreement, the buyer is usually required to put up a few thousand dollars of earnest money within a set time frame of signing the contract. You as the seller generally determine this amount. This money is usually held in an escrow account until closing, then applied toward the purchase. A real estate attorney can help assist with this escrow process.


Disclosures. As a seller, you have to provide documentation of different disclosures, such as lead or radon issues, any insurance claims made against homeowners while living on the property, issues with roof leaks or mold, and any other concerns you are aware of that can affect the safety or value of your house.



Closing the sale of your home



If you haven’t already, this is the time to hire a real estate attorney to help you with the closing process.


Key steps in the home closing process

The closing of your house sale can take as long as the preparation and the negotiation phases and can include many different steps, depending on your buyer. Typically, you can expect:

  • A scheduled and completed home inspection (typically required by mortgage lenders)

  • Negotiations for any issues found during inspection (agree to repair, request to leave as is, offer a discount on the sales price as a concession, etc.)

  • A scheduled and completed home appraisal (required by mortgage lenders)

  • Negotiations if the appraisal comes in lower than sell price

  • A buyer final walkthrough to ensure home is emptied and cleaned before closing and no damage has been done since last inspection/visit

  • Clear to close from buyer’s mortgage lender (if applicable)

  • Closing date



The pros and cons of selling your home FSBO



Now that we’ve covered the steps of the FSBO process, you can better assess if this is a potential path you wish to take. This process has both advantages and disadvantages for physicians. When determining how to approach your home sale, consider the following.


Pros and cons to selling a house FSBO


Pros of FSBO


More control. Without a real estate agent as a middle man, you can control when you list your house, when you show it, what you ultimately sell it for, how quickly you communicate with potential buyers, and more.


You can save money. This is the biggest advantage and the main reason doctors typically consider FSBO, especially in hotter housing markets.


Potentially quicker process. If you have a buyer already lined up, you can skip many of the steps above such as staging, listing, and advertising your home on top of putting more money in your pocket at closing.


Insight into potential buyers. Since you will be interacting with buyers at showings, you’ll gain more insight into their thought process and be able to gauge their interest, which can help you in the negotiations process.



Cons of FSBO


Time consuming. Even when you hire out professional photography and cleaning, selling a home by owner can eat up a lot of a doctor’s time. The time requirement can reduce the advantage of saving on Realtor commission fees.


Fewer potential buyers. If you don’t use the MLS system, you’ll likely have less eyes on your listing. A lot of real estate agents work through word of mouth with other agents within their agencies or through their professional networks, and buyers’ agents may be less willing to show them a FSBO property.


Potentially longer time on market. If you don’t have a buyer in mind and don’t quickly find one through word of mouth, it can take longer for potential buyers to find your listing, which can lead to a longer time living in a staged home and increased overall time on the market (which buyers can potentially leverage for a lower offer price).


Pricing uncertainty. Without years of experience with the local market, you may be unsure of where to competitively price your property, which can either lead to underselling it or overpricing it and receiving less offers. Likewise, if you haven’t honed your negotiation skills, you may be more likely to close for a lower asking price than someone used to negotiating day in and day out on deals.



Conclusion



The higher the market value of your home, the more appealing selling your house by owner can be. For Sale by Owner (FSBO) is a viable option when moving and can save you thousands of dollars, if you have the time and energy to wear a Realtor’s hat for a while. Presentation is key when marketing and negotiating your home. By focusing on smaller expenses that add real value, you can optimize your ability to obtain a top dollar offer. And by being available and responding quickly to inquiries, especially during the showing phase of the process, you can ensure those offers don’t pass you by.


By selling your house by owner, you don’t have to do the process entirely alone. Reach out to a professional cleaner, photographer, and real estate attorney to help during your FSBO journey.


We wish you the best of luck! If you have questions during the process, reach out to our hive mind in our physician online communities.



Additional resources for physicians moving



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